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My Teen Missed Curfew. It Helped Me Let Go Of My Little Boy

As a teacher, I am constantly giving parenting advice. I spent many years quietly judging those whose children tend to misbehave—until I became a mother.

My son Aaron was the pleaser in the house. If his sister Kate was acting nutty, he was the pacifist who with his gentle nature knew how to bring us all together. When he was 11, he told me that he didn’t want to go to middle school because he wouldn’t see me all the time like he did when I taught in his school. He was still spooked by bumps in the night. Often we would trip over his sleeping bundle when we got out of our bed in the morning. He felt safest when we were close by, and, to be honest, I loved being able to hear him breathe at night.

“I Was An Idiot”

When he was 12 he told me, “Mom, I’m super tired tonight, so I’m going to sleep with my door closed. Try not to disturb me.” Oh no, it’s happening, was all I could think. So, like any normal mother would do, I set my alarm for 1 a.m., checked his room, and confirmed that he had indeed snuck out.

The next few years were a little bumpy, but he continued to be my sweetheart, and I remember thinking, Phew, I think we are going to be okay. I said it again after Aaron accidentally started a fire with fireworks, and again after he got a 12-point ticket for doing donuts in the school parking lot. The truth finally overcame my naivete when we received a call that he was smoking weed in the golf course parking lot. I had been blinded by his smile and sweet nature. I was an idiot.

In spite of all of this, I was determined to retain control of my rebellious son. I wanted what was best for him, but it’s also true that I was hurt and missed our closeness.

One night when he was 17, Aaron didn’t return home by curfew, so I went onto Facebook and found out where the parties were. (Being his friends’ teacher did have its perks.) It was 2 a.m. and my husband had the audacity to be asleep while I quietly paced the living room floor. I threw on some shorts, grabbed my purse, and went out. You didn’t hear me say bra or shoes, right?

Rebellious Son Missed Curfew

I stormed out of the house and drove eight blocks to where I was sure he was partying. Jackpot! There was his sporty little car sitting innocently in front of the very loud party house.

At first, I pondered barging into the house and dragging him out. However, after glancing in the mirror at my crazy-haired, braless self, I decided to come up with another strategy. My brilliant new idea was to somehow take the car. Then when he came out he would have no choice but to call me in a panic. Problem: My car would still be there, and I knew Aaron had a key on his key ring. Next brilliant idea: I take both cars home.

I was determined. So I began the process of leapfrogging both of those cars home. I knew the neighborhood, so I drove my car about three or four houses down the street and parked it. Then I ran back to his car, drove it three or four houses past my parked car…and so on and so on.

The rocks in my bare feet didn’t faze me, because I was determined to get home before Aaron realized the car was missing and caught me in the act. Those rocks only made me angrier and the sweat dripping down my neck in the July heat only drove me to go faster.

Teaching a Lesson To My Defiant Son

After two hours, I finally made it home with both cars. My husband was just waking up for work and saw me sitting at the table gulping down cold water. My face was flushed and sweat was dripping from every pore. I was angry, but mostly I felt powerful. I had taught that child the lesson of his life. When he realized his car was gone he was going to need my help. Then he would finally see how much he needed us and how grateful he should be.

My husband stared at me for a few moments, kissed my forehead, and told me to go lie down and get some sleep. He didn’t want to hear the details and, frankly, it was 5 a.m. by then. I was exhausted and ready for a rest. I would deal with the child later, but for now just to soothe my aching feet would be a treat. Slowly I crawled into my bed thinking of how much I missed my little boy and dreading the conversation that was sure to come in the morning.

I didn’t have to miss him for long, however. That little angel was in his old spot next to our bed, fast asleep on the floor—right where he’d curled up after being dropped off by a friend hours earlier.

Gretchen Bitner

Gretchen Bitner is a teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Gretchen believes that humor may be the only way to survive parenthood.